‘He was so lucky’: Max Verstappen reacts to Lewis Hamilton’s near-miss

Max Verstappen became a double world champion last weekend, but the Japanese GP had plenty of other drama.

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez watched on in shock as replays of Carlos Sainz’s first lap crash emerged after the Japanese Grand Prix.

The race got underway in wet conditions on Sunday, with Verstappen starting on pole after a tremendous effort in qualifying.

The Dutchman led Charles Leclerc through Turns One and Two after bravely hanging on around the outside, but the race was quickly red flagged when Sainz aquaplaned at Turn 11, spinning into the barrier.

During the suspension, a crane was inexplicably sent out while there were still cars travelling past the incident.

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Even during a caution or a red flag, visibility is poor and the drivers are travelling at speed, so when Pierre Gasly was almost wiped out by the recovery vehicle, there was outrage at the FIA for deploying it.

It was particularly haunting given what happened to Jules Bianchi in 2014 at the same race, but thankfully this time, nobody was harmed.

Things got back underway after a period behind the Safety Car, and the drivers quicky took the decision to switch from the extreme Wets onto the Intermediates.

Leclerc in second was being caught rapidly by Perez, and on the final lap of the race, the Monegasque locked up going into the final chicane, and left the circuit.

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He pushed Perez wide as the 32-year-old tried to pass him, and that earned the Ferrari driver a five-second penalty immediately after the chequered flag.

The race was time limited, but because it ended under green flags, and was not halted by a suspension, the stewards ruled that full points could be awarded.

With Leclerc down in third from second, Verstappen was crowned champion, before then being told that full points might not be awarded.

The Dutchman was eventually confirmed as a two-time champion, in a year of bizarre title decisions.

As the drivers walked into the cooldown room, the drivers were still unsure if everything had been mathematically settled.

“So, is he champion, not champion?” asked Perez.

“Not [champion],” smiled Verstappen.

The two Red Bull drivers then observed Leclerc’s mistake that ultimately lost him second.

“So, what happened, he locked up?” asked the now double champion.

“He locked up – I was attacking him into the chicane – he locked up, went straight but he came [over and] I was on the outside,” explained the Mexican.

Scenes of the frightening first lap incident were then displayed, along with Sainz’s incredibly close proximity to those who were making their way past him at high speed.

“He’s so lucky to not get T-boned,” exclaimed Verstappen.

“Did you see Hamilton?” asked Perez.

“Yeah,” replied a stunned Verstappen.

“You can’t see anything, look!” he shouted as he saw another replay.

Perez recalled the incident with the recovery vehicle on the track while there were still cars on the circuit.

“About the crane…” he said.

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“Yeah,” agreed Verstappen, seemingly wanting to keep his thoughts on the incident internal for now.

Verstappen was then told to go and sit in the throne that had been prepared in case he became champion and, because of the confusion, he was convinced he had not yet wrapped up the championship.

After placing himself on the chair for a few seconds, he felt “lonely”, and decided to go back to his colleagues.